What do I need to know about D&D 5e?

J. Roberts

Bit Pusher
Validated User
I appreciate the advice. For some members of my group I think a start at a higher level could work, but for others it would not. When the time comes I'll take it slow and start things at 1st level.
Keep in mind that it only takes 300 xp to reach second level; every group I've run hits this by the end of the first session.
 

Daz Florp Lebam

Grand Poobah
Validated User
Keep in mind that it only takes 300 xp to reach second level; every group I've run hits this by the end of the first session.
Yeah, getting to 3rd level is pretty quick if you don't die first, and if the the players don't grasp how hard life is on a 1st level character, they'll change their tactics the second that orc takes half their HP in a single attack. ;)
 

BeholderThief

Registered User
Validated User
Sorry i've been so busy, haven't had much time to post. I apologize, I should have prefaced my post with my comments being my own. Everyone who plays this game has their own take aways and no one plays it the same way...

Since the game we're intending to play will be high fantasy I feel that this is suitable. However, is it still possible to present actual threats to the characters as they progress? In some systems I've felt that after a certain breaking point actually posing a threat to characters becomes a bit of a chore. Or maybe I've been too merciful in the past!
Its certainly possible to challenge characters in 5E... I've only run 5E up to maybe 7th level, but a half dozen wraiths will spoil anyone's day. But seriously, the key to challenge in 5E is attrition + risk/reward + telegraphing threats.

Ignore the encounter building rules in the game. Build your encounters as you feel they should be. If a crypt contains the spirits of 10 dead kings, then the crypt contains 10 wraiths or whatever. If you provide enough iconography and clues indicating the number 10, the players will get the hint. Provide clear indication of threats and let the players figure it out.

My platitude towards a challenging campaign is this: A character death is fine and appropriate, if the player can trace back their actions to a decision they have made that resulted in their characters death.

If you give players the information needed to appropriately assess the threat against them, you are free to throw whatever dangerous and deadly threats against them. Go hog-wild.

What does this mean? Should I keep on my players to make up their minds? Push them back in iniative if they take too long?

In general, how does combat in 5e flow? Over in a bloody snap of the fingers? A full session for a skirmish with bandits in the woods?
I'd just look out for people taking too long in combat. The enemy of a fun and dramatic session is long, drawn out combats (at least in my opinion). As DM, I try to know the game as best as possible, and I try to help players. Some people get the game instantly and know exactly how to run their characters, but some players don't take to it naturally. Don't run their characters for them, but point out how their abilities work... tell the rogue player how they can use their bonus actions. Don't let them stay uncertain too long, provide hints and help. As a DM, know the rules and help people who are still learning.

In general, 5E combat goes pretty fast. Not quite 'bloody snap of the fingers' but not necessarily a full session, either. A lot of monsters have buckets of hit points, but PC's can dish out serious damage. A skirmish with bandits in the woods, mechanically doesn't take much time (you can run it theater of the mind, even, although I prefer a battle map).

5E doesn't require a specific level of tactical precision. You can use the level of tactical detail that is warranted for the encounter in question. A fight with 3 goblins can be theater of the mind, but a dozen bandits may require the battle map. Even when using a battle map, you don't necessarily have to be super precise. It depends on the battle. Use tactical combat as a tool, when needed, to enrich the game experience. In 5E a battle can be a finger-snap or a full session, as you require of it.



Isn't this the rule of thumb for every system? Only roll when it's interesting?
Yes very true. I just have a love-hate with skill systems. I understand how they can be useful, but in general I think they are a crutch. Also the more rolling required by the players the more introduction of failure. I consider PCs (even 1st level) to be competent adventurers... why roll when they should just succeed.

Thanks for the tip! This may be famous last words, but I feel that both my players and I may feel unsatisfied if we knew we were leaving interesting options unused on the table.
Fair enough. I'm a basic D&D person. I'm perfectly fine with fighter/rogue/cleric/wizard. I personally feel that with backgrounds, I pretty much can make any character concept I can imagine with just those classes.

If I'm running for new players (new to D&D), I don't want to have to waste time explaining the difference between a paladin and a ranger, or a sorcerer and a warlock. I think the core 4 classes provide very clear, definable, understandable archetypes.

What kind of optional rules are available? I appreciate that the writers thought up stuff like that. Since we're going for a high fantasy game I think it would go against the theme to opt for gritty realism, at least in this case.
The DMG has a ton of interesting optional rules. I highly recommend it. It is a fantastic book. For a high fantasy game, you probably don't want gritty realism. But it does have rules for a 'hero point' that lets players spend a meta-currency to impact the world. It has alternative rules for skills. There's a lot of good stuff in the DMG that can steer your game in either direction (gritty or epic).

Are we talking about house rules? Optional rules?
Yes and no. The game has optional rules that can steer the game in either direction, but that is not the end of it. 5E has a default style (heroic fantasy adventure), but it is pretty malleable. This is because a lot of the game is put in the hands of the DM. Previous modern versions of D&D have codified the play-style more directly. There were more rules to follow on what can or can't be done and as a result, those games had a more precise intention towards style of play.

5E loosens that codification a little. The game really depends on the DM to adjudicate the game. This gives you a lot of leeway on how you rule and interpret actions in the game. If you want a heroic, high fantasy game, you just put the stakes of what you want a successful skill check or action to accomplish to match.
Thanks for all the replies so far!

Another question: pretty much everything that's been covered so far has been in some way related to combat. And I realize that for most systems the most complex subsystems will be related to combat. However, how does the 5e system support non-combat actions?

Crafting? Social encounters? Trade? Political factions?
5E's ability check mechanic is pretty robust. You can handle nearly any non-combat, adventuring action you can imagine through ability checks + proficiency system.

Crafting / Social encounters / trade / politics, however are not heavily supported by the game. However, there are a lot of good free or cheap resources available on DM's Guild that can help.

I recommend:
https://www.dmsguild.com/product/226033/City-and-Wild
https://www.dmsguild.com/product/207377/WH-Fortresses-Temples--Strongholds-rules-for-building-and-customizing-playerowned-structures
https://shop.mcdmproductions.com/products/strongholds-followers-pdf
 

Daz Florp Lebam

Grand Poobah
Validated User
Everyone who plays this game has their own take aways and no one plays it the same way...

Its certainly possible to challenge characters in 5E... I've only run 5E up to maybe 7th level, but a half dozen wraiths will spoil anyone's day. But seriously, the key to challenge in 5E is attrition + risk/reward + telegraphing threats.

Ignore the encounter building rules in the game. Build your encounters as you feel they should be. If a crypt contains the spirits of 10 dead kings, then the crypt contains 10 wraiths or whatever. If you provide enough iconography and clues indicating the number 10, the players will get the hint. Provide clear indication of threats and let the players figure it out.

My platitude towards a challenging campaign is this: A character death is fine and appropriate, if the player can trace back their actions to a decision they have made that resulted in their characters death.

If you give players the information needed to appropriately assess the threat against them, you are free to throw whatever dangerous and deadly threats against them. Go hog-wild.
This is all excellent advice. Build the encounter you feel needs to happen, and let the players know what they're getting into. I've never used the encounter-building rules because they always seemed clunky and artificial to me. Make the location and obstacles/enemies dramatic, not technically challenging.

So skipping straight to 3 level is just fine then.
Yeah, do what you want, man. There's no wrong level to start at. I like those struggling low levels and tend to draw them out as a DM, just so the players have a sense of having really come from somewhere before they got their awsum pwrz.
 

Jürgen Hubert

aka "Herr Doktor Hubert"
Validated User
Note that different classes enter their subclasses at different levels, but none of them do it later than level 3.
 

Daz Florp Lebam

Grand Poobah
Validated User
Oh, here's a piece of advice to DMs: know the implications of the spells you give the PCs and NPCs access to.

I gave my players a magic item once that had spells stored in it whose effects I thought I understood. I was wrong. (Wind Walk is a kind of a "Get Out of Jail Free" card, it turns out...)

In the climactic battle against Tiamat, our DM had one of the summoning priest/wizard dudes whip out a Power Word Kill on my character. She clearly had assumed it allowed for death saves. It does not.
 

Manitou

Emperor of the Americas
Validated User
Wind Walk is kinda forgivable though. In previous editions Wind Walk was a third or fourth level spell, it's name was descriptive in that it let you walk on air for an hour or 8. In 5e it got a major upgrade to being something to GURPS 3e's Vortex Rider spell, in that it turns you and your party into, basically, small/medium air elementals. Mind you, its lacking VR's tornado to ride in, but that makes you stealthier.
 
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RobertEdwards

Registered User
Validated User
Wind Walk is kinda forgivable though. In previous editions Wind Walk was a third or fourth level spell, it's name was descriltive in that it let you walk on air for an hour or 8. In 5e it got a major upgrade to beng something to GURPS 3e's Vortex Rider spell, in that it turns you and your party into, basically, small/medium air elementals. Mind you, its lacking VR's tor adoe to ride in, but that makes you stealthier.
Is there a list or FAQ about such spell gotchas somewhere?
 

BeholderThief

Registered User
Validated User
This is all excellent advice. Build the encounter you feel needs to happen, and let the players know what they're getting into. I've never used the encounter-building rules because they always seemed clunky and artificial to me. Make the location and obstacles/enemies dramatic, not technically challenging.



Yeah, do what you want, man. There's no wrong level to start at. I like those struggling low levels and tend to draw them out as a DM, just so the players have a sense of having really come from somewhere before they got their awsum pwrz.
Thank you for the kind words!

I agree with you about starting level. I think 5E gets it right in that it gives you the low level precariousness, but doesn't keep you there too long (I love B/X but man do you have to walk on eggshells for a while... you really have to earn that second hit die!).

I actually think low levels go a little too fast, but its really not that big a deal. I personally think people should just embrace low level play. In 5E, you don't spend that much time there, so just enjoy it until you get to the higher levels... it doesn't take that long.
 
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